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advantages, and probably ignorant of the reinforce-
ment the leading division had received during the
night, drew up his army in the form of a crescent,
both its flanks being considerably advanced, and the
main road running through its centre ; he, no doubt,
calculated that the British general would advance by
this road until opposed in front, when the wings
could be closed in to the attack on both flanks and
rear, a mode of assault which his great superiority in
numbers would have enabled him to effect, had only
the cautious Peninsular veteran, who commanded the
opposing force, fallen into the snare so cunningly
laid for him. But the advance of the British troops
was conducted in such a manner as soon to unmask
the object of his formation, and he was instantly
assailed on both flanks.

His Majesty's 13th Light Infantry, under Sir

Life of Sir George Pollock. 177

Archibald Campbell's immediate direction, led the
right attack, accompanied by four guns of the Bengal
Horse Artillery, and a small detachment of the body-
guard, supported by His Majesty's 89th Eegiment.
The left attack was led by His Majesty's 38th Eegi-
ment, supported by His Majesty's 41st, and two
guns of Madras Artillery, under the direction of
General Cotton ; whilst Lieut. -Col. Parlby, with
the 43rd Madras Native Infantry, advanced on
the banks of the Irrawaddy on the extreme left, in
order to prevent the enemy throwing troops in the
rear in that direction. The Commander-in-Chief,
leading the 13th, instantly dispersed the force op-
posed to him, but pushing forward with too great
impetuosity, was in turn assailed by about 600 of
the Cassay Cavalry, and for a time was placed in a
most perilous position, from which he was extricated
by the gallantry displayed by the detachment of the
Governor-General's body-guard, and the exertions of
the Horse Artillery, under Captain Lumsden. The
detachment of the 13th, only intent upon driving
the enemy before them, had left far in their rear
the supporting columns, which were more slowly
disengaging themselves from the narrow route by
which they had to pass. It was then that the
Burmese general ordered a large detachment, in-
cluding a strong body of horse, to close and cut off
the too daring assailants from their main body. The
necessity of a retreat becoming at once obvious, it
was ordered by Sir Archibald, and was made with a


178 Life of Sir George Pollock.


coolness and deliberation which deterred the enemy
from following up their momentary advantage. The
body-guard first covered the retreat of the infantry,
and then, forming in their rear, allowed the guns to
open to right and left, which they did with fatal

On the left of the line, part of the enemy's troops,
being driven back by the 38th at the point of the
bayonet, retired into a well-constructed field-work,
but were so closely pursued that they had not time to
form for its defence. The stockade was carried in fine
style by the 38th, led by General Cotton, and the
garrison driven down to the bank of the river, where
numbers of them were bayoneted, while a portion of
the remainder, some 300 in all, dashed into the swift
current of the Irrawaddy and were drowned. Mean-
while, the enemy, perceiving both his flanks attacked,
and seeing the centre apparently without troops, pushed
a column by the main road towards an eminence,
covered with pagodas, in the rear, but was checked
by the 41st and 89th, which had been held in reserve,
and retired. The first line of the enemy's position being
thus carried, the British troops were re-formed, and
after a short halt, led to the attack of the second,
which was immediately stormed by the 13th, who
met with but slight opposition. The enemy, thus
defeated at all points, left the victorious British
general in possession of Pagahm Mew, with all its
stores, ordnance, and ammunition. These included
thirty-two guns, fourteen swivels, and ninety-four

Life of Sir George Pollock. 179

jingalls, together with three and a half tons of powder,
and other material of war in proportion. The loss of
the victors during the operations of the day, although
extending over five hours, and continued over four
miles of ground, was surprisingly small, a circum-
stance attributed by the Commander-in- Chief to the
want on the part of the enemy of the usual
security behind works which afforded them not only
personal protection, but a rest for their firearms. The
British casualties consisted of one man killed and
fourteen wounded, including Captain Tronson of the
13th, the only officer injured.

The following letter, from an eye-witness, of the
critical position in which, in the early part of the
action, the advanced party of the 13th with the
Commander-in-Chief was placed, will be read with
interest :

" On the morning of the 9th, the advanced guard, consisting
of thirty-four troopers of the body-guard, and fifty men of His
Majesty's 13th, having moved forward about three miles, fell in
with a very strong picket of the enemy, who saluted them with
a shower of musket and jingall balls. Their fire, however, was
more noisy than mischievous, and they contrived invariably to
miss the party. General Campbell and his staff followed close
upon the advance with a couple of 6-pounders and a howitzer ;
the number of the enemy enabling them to outflank the advance,
a body of them succeeded in throwing themselves between the
party and the main force, when the remainder of the 13th
coming up through the jungle, spread by bugle call to the
right and left, with as much steady and composed alacrity as if
they were exercising on the glacis of Fort William, and dis-
persed their opponents. In the meantime, the advance pushed

12 *

180 Life of Sir George Pollock.

on in open skirmishing order, and the Commander-in- Chief was
left with a mere handful of men and the guns, when on entering
into a little plain a few men of the 13th, about sixteen, who
were foremost, were charged by a mass of Munnypore Horse :
the bugle sounded to close, but they were too few to make head
against the cavalry, and retired precipitately upon the guns.
In this they would scarcely have succeeded if the subahdar
major of the body-guard, with the jemadar and seven troopers,
the escort of the Commander-in- Chief, had not interposed to
cover their retreat. Dashing past the skirmishers to the right
and left of them, the troopers deployed in the rear, and without
anything like precipitancy or hurry, they kept the Munnypore
Horse in check, falling back gradually till within range of the
guns ; they then filed off on either hand to make way for the
guns to open, which they did with grape and shrapnel most
effectually. I hear that Sir Archibald Campbell observed, after
the action, that he had never witnessed more steady and gallant
conduct than that displayed by the troopers of the body-guard
on this occasion : no cavalry in the world could have acted

The Commander-in-Chief, in his despatch to the
Government of India, observed :

" Every individual engaged conducted himself so perfectly to
my satisfaction, that I will not particularize any ; a copy of the
order which I issued upon the occasion, and which I beg leave
to enclose, will best express to his lordship my feelings towards
the gallant troops I have the honour to command."

The following is the general order to which Sir
Archibald Campbell refers :

" Gr. O., Head Quarters, Pagahm Mew,
" 9th February, 1826.

" Providence has once more blessed with success the British
arms in this country ; and in the decisive defeat of the imposing

Life of Sir George Pollock. 1 8 1

force posted under and within the walls of Pagahm Mew, the
Major-General recognises a fresh display of the military virtues
which have characterized his troops from the commencement of
this war.

" Early on this day, the enemy, departing from the cautious
system of defence behind field-works and entrenchments, which
form their usual device of war, and relying on their great
numerical superiority and singular advantages of ground, ven-
tured on a succession of bold manoeuvres on the flanks and front
of the British columns. This false confidence has been rebuked
by a reverse, severe, signal, and disastrous. Their troops of
either arm were repelled at every point, and their masses driven
in confusion within their city. The storm of Pagahm Mew,
which followed, exhibited the same features of intrepidity and

" The frequency of these acts of spirited soldiership on the
part of his troops renders it difficult for the Major- General to
vary the terms of his praise ; but he offers to every officer and
soldier engaged this day the tribute of his thanks, at once
with the affection of a commander and the cordiality of a

George Pollock was present throughout this event-
ful day, with the Madras column, under Willoughby
Cotton, and he superintended the fire of the guns,
"which," according to Havelock's description, who
was present on the occasion, " poured a continuous
storm of shot and shell among the enemy. The
deafening peals succeeded each other with a rapidity
which suggested the image of unchecked vengeance
falling in thunder upon the heads of these deceitful
barbarians." The British force was obliged to hah
at Pagahm Mew for some days, and this delay was
turned to good account by the officers in examining
the interesting remnants of antiquity which cover

1 82 Life of Sir George Pollock.

the ground in its vicinity, and testify to the ancient
greatness of the kingdom.

Little is known of the history of Burmah, though
chronological tables of its principal events, true or
mythical, have been brought to light. These tables
go as far back as 543 B.C. The first monarchs are
said to have come from Behar, in India, and to have
fixed the seat of their government at Prome, where it
continued for 386 years. Traces of the walls of the
ancient capital were at this time still to be seen a
short distance from the modern town of Prome. The
seat of government was afterwards transferred to
Pagahm in the 107th year of the Christian era, and
here it continued for more than twelve centuries. In
1322, the seat of government was transferred to
Sakaing, but only for forty- four years, when it was
removed to Ava, by the Talains, or people of Pegu.
The famous Emperor Alompra, or more properly
Alaong-Bura (signifying one that expects to be a
Buddha), made his native town, Motsobo, the capital
of the empire in 1752 ; but his descendants, yielding
to superstitious caprices, shifted the seat of govern-
ment on several occasions. One of his sons removed
it to Sakaing, another to Ava, another to Amarapoora,
and the potentate who was on the throne during the
present war, once more made Ava the metropolis in
1822.* According to the chronological tables pre-

* Mandalay, the present capital Pratt as a wide-spread place, con-
of the Burmese empire, is de- taining 100,000 inhabitants. The
scribed by the late Archdeacon houses are built of wood and mat-

Life of Sir George Pollock. 183

viously referred to, 128 kings have reigned since the
foundation of the kingdom, which would give an
average of about seventeen years for each reign.

There was much to interest the cultivated mind,
having a taste for archaeology, in the ruins of Pagahm,
which extend for twelve miles along the eastern bank
of the Irrawaddy, and to a distance inland of five or
six. The town was formerly surrounded by a wide
ditch, and a brick wall, now in ruins, but which must
have been of considerable height and thickness ; some
of the temples are still almost entire, and exhibit a
style of architecture, and superiority both in building
and materials, which far exceed the present efforts of
the Burmese. Most of the religious edifices appear
to have been elaborately carved and adorned, while
others, though falling to decay, yet present the com-
mon feature of a mouldering arch, still retaining its
upright position by the aid of strong parasitic plants,
and sheltering under its time-worn shadow a muti-
lated image of Gautama or Boodh. Euins of large
vaulted chambers and galleries could be distinctly
traced, while the plain, which was strewed over with

ting, neatly put together, only a the palace itself standing in the

very few being constructed of centre. On the skirts of the town

brick. In the midst of this col- on a creek which runs up from

lection of houses is the city pro- the river, and is crowded with

per, a perfect square, each side boats is the residence of the

600 tahs (about one mile and one- agent of the Governor-General of

fifth), with three gates on each side. India, and in the next compound

The roads are wide, and at right are situated the clergyman's house,

angles. The palace grounds are the schoolroom, and boarding-

also a square in the centre of the house, recently built by the King,
city, each side measuring 200 tahs,

184 Life of Sir George Pollock.

pagodas, some of immense size, presented the appear-
ance of a vast burial-ground, adorned with magnificent
mausoleums. There was one pagoda, about a quarter
of a mile distant from the east gate of Pagahm, that
was much admired by Colonel Pollock and other
officers who inspected it, and is represented as superior
to any building of a similar character in Burmah,
even carrying off the palm of magnificence from the
world-famous Dagon Pagoda in Rangoon. To return
to the course of events, now rapidly approaching a
crisis that promised a speedy termination of the

On the evening of the 13th February, Drs. Price
and Sandford, the latter now liberated, made their
appearance in camp, announcing that the king and
court had sent in their submission, and agreed to ac-
cept our terms, but neither returning the prisoners
nor bringing the twenty-five lacs of rupees forming
the first instalment of the required money payment.
Dr. Price was also anxious to know, on the part of
the king, whether the General would be satisfied with
the immediate payment of six lacs of rupees, receiving
the remaining nineteen on the arrival of the army
at Prome, begging also that the force should not
approach nearer the capital. A positive refusal was
given to these requests, and on the following morning
Dr. Price returned to Ava.

In the meantime matters had gone hard with the
unlucky titular " King of Hell." On his arrival at
Ava he had the temerity to present himself before his

Life of Sir George PottocJc. 185

master, the King of the White Elephant, and dis-
played the possession of an almost incredible amount
of audacity in assuring that potentate that if he
would only favour him with the command of 1,000
more men, he would engage, positively undertake this
time, to utterly destroy the " rebellious strangers "
who still polluted the soil of Burrnah with their pre-
sence. His Majesty, the Lord of the Sea and Land,
did not, however, consider the amount of success that
had crowned the recent efforts of the Prince of Dark-
ness to be of a sufficiently encouraging character to
give him another trial, and so he expressed his
opinion of the braggart, in a manner peculiar to des-
pots in this quarter of the globe. The king heard
him with patience, and allowed him to finish his tale,
but no sooner was it concluded than, making a motion
with his javelin to the surrounding attendants, they
seized the unfortunate chief, and dragged him off to
punishment. During the plenitude of his power, the
cruelty and rapacity of this man had been unbounded;
the king, therefore, referring to his past conduct, said,
as he issued the mandate for his execution, "Take
away that wretch, and let him suffer the same punish-
ment he has so often inflicted on my poor subjects."
Thereupon he was instantly hurried forth, and whilst
on his way to the place of execution, suffered every
indignity which the infuriated guards could inflict.
It is related that even at this awful moment, this
cruel and remorseless man was capable of entertain-
ing, and giving expression to, a sentiment of loyalty

1 86 Life of Sir George Pollock.

which has invested with a certain dignity the tragic
fate that befell him. When on the point of losing
sight of the imperial palace, he suddenly turned
round, and inclining his head, exclaimed, " Let me
make one parting obeisance to the residence of my
sovereign." A few minutes more terminated his exist-
ence : he was thrown under the feet of horses and
elephants, and trampled to death.

During the few days the British army halted at
Pagahm, waiting for provisions, and the junction of
Brigadier Shawe's column, a stream of 3,000 boats
and canoes was constantly passing down the river,
containing the families of those who had been obliged
by the Burmese army to leave their habitations in
Prome, and other places along the line of march. The
number of poor people thus released from the tyranny
of the native Government amounted to between
25,000 and 30,000 souls. Upon this satisfactory
result the Commander-in-Chief congratulated him-
self and his gallant army, in his despatch to the
Governor-General recounting the condition of affairs.

On Brigadier Shawe's arrival on the 16th of
February, the march was resumed for Ava. The
country was at first barren, but during the two suc-
ceeding marches the face of nature improved and
the soil appeared more cultivated. On arriving at
Yebbay, on the 18th, it was found that a deputation
had arrived from Ava in six large war-boats, bearing
the royal colours. It consisted of Dr. Price, in
whom the king placed unlimited confidence, besides

Life of Sir George Pollock. 187

Mr. Judson, an American missionary, and Lieutenant
Bennett, of the Eoyal Eegiment, and was accom-
panied by thirty- five Sepoys and camp followers, who
had been captured, chiefly in the neighbourhood of
Prome. On this occasion, besides being the bearer
of professions of submission, Dr. Price brought with
him six lacs of rupees, which it was thought would
delay the advance of the British commander, whom
the king credited with a cupidity and meanness in
bargaining for every shilling of the indemnity, for
which he himself and his ministers were remarkable.
But the British Commissioners were inexorable as
fate; there were the original terms of the treaty,
with the money payment as settled at Mellown, and
they refused to abate one rupee as the amount of
the first instalment or final payment. Further, they
now declared that unless the ratified treaty, with the
whole of the British prisoners and the twenty-five
lacs of rupees, was forthcoming within five days, the
present terms would be exchanged for stipulations of
a much harsher kind. With this ultimatum Messrs.
Price and Judson returned to Ava, from which
already one-third of the inhabitants had fled panic-
stricken at the near approach of their invincible

On the morning of the 19th, the army, after
marching over some plains totally free from jungle,
and well cultivated, halted at Toundwain, a neat and
somewhat extensive town, surrounded by a well-built
timber stockade. It had been recently deserted by

1 88 Life of Sir George Pollock.

the inhabitants, while strangely enough, the villagers
on the opposite bank remained in their huts, and
even brought down provisions for sale to the flotilla.
On the following day Sir Archibald Campbell
continued his advance, and passing through a
well-cultivated and, comparatively speaking, populous
country, halted at Goungwain. The next morning
the army marched through the once extensive town
of Tiroup Mew, or Chinese City, so called in com-
memoration of the annihilation of an invading host
of Celestials. On the 22nd, the army proceeded to
Yandaboo, the limit of the advance, and destined to
be memorable in Indian history as the spot on which
was concluded the treaty that bears its name. It is
situated on the banks of the river, a little way
beyond the point of junction of the Keendueem
and Irrawaddy rivers, and is only some forty-five
miles, or three marches, distant from Ava.

The army had not been encamped long when a
war-boat was observed rounding a point some distance
up the river, and on its nearer approach, it was
discovered to contain Dr. Price, who, on landing,
informed the General that he had at length brought
the stipulated instalment of twenty-five lacs of
rupees, which were following him in some war-boats,
while the king had sent two of his chief ministers
with full discretionary powers to conclude a treaty
of peace. Being doubtful of the good faith of the
British Commander after the money and prisoners
should be delivered up to them, these faint-hearted

Life of Sir George Pollock.

Commissioners had remained behind at Yeppandine,
some twenty miles in the rear, but their alarm being
quelled by reassuring messages from Dr. Price, they
ventured to the camp. Here, on the beach, a couple
of tents had been pitched for their reception, and
another for Mr. Judson, the American missionary,
who, as well as his noble-hearted wife the authoress
of some clever "Letters from Burmah," detailing
the incidents of their captivity and other prisoners,
had been released by order of the king. The treasure,
which was brought in seven large war-boats, was
landed, under charge of a guard, on a part of the
beach appropriated for the purpose, and was received
by Major Stock, the Paymaster-General. It was
found to be of every description, consisting of gold
and silver, trinkets, bars of gold, coins of various
nations, and even several of the gold chains of the
nobility, upon whom, as well as the poor inhabitants,
forced loans had been levied ; it is gratifying, how-
ever, to think that the king felt the screw as well as
his subjects, and it must have caused him a pang
to issue from the royal coffers the bars of gold
marked with the peacock, and valued at 2,000 rupees
each, which formed a portion of the ransom for his

The two Burmese Commissioners, the Premier
Woonghee, Lord of Laykaing, and the Privy Coun*
cillor Shwaguin, after partaking of some refreshment
in the tent prepared for them, walked towards the
General's marquee, followed by a considerable suite,

1 9 Life of Sir George Pollock.

and preceded by four men with red lacquered helmets,
bearing long canes with which to clear the way.
Very different was the attire of these high function-
aries from that gaudy and fantastic costume in which
the ambassadors flaunted before the foreigners they
came to hoodwink at the previous meetings at Neoun-
ben-Zeik and Mellown. Their dress was doubtless
intended to indicate the fallen fortunes of their
haughty master, clad in a silk longhee round the
loins, a white cotton jacket and muslin surcoat, the
latter drawn together by undress cotton strings, they
appeared before their conquerors, in the dust and
ashes of humility. The Woonghee, or Chief Minister
of State, is described " as an old man of slight make
and fair complexion, and very silent and reserved ;
but his colleague, the Atweynwoon, or Privy Coun-
cillor, whose countenance was of a swarthy hue, deeply
marked by the small-pox, appeared to be a man of
some cleverness." There was also a third personage,
but although allowed to be present, he took no part
in the discussion of the negotiations.

An eye-witness describes the meeting in the
following terms :

" On entering Sir Archibald Campbell's tent, the Burmese
seated themselves at one side of the table, whilst the Gene-
ral, Mr. Robertson, Captain Chads, R-.N.,* and four or five
officers occupied the other ; and after the customary ceremony
of shaking hands and expressing their satisfaction at the pacific

* Sir J. Brisbane's bad state of health having obliged him to leave
the country, Captain Chads became senior naval officer.

Life of Sir George Pollock. 191

nature of the meeting, the Commissioners proceeded to discuss
the terms of peace. To a question whether they came prepared
to answer our demands and were provided with written creden-
tials from the king, the Burmahs answered in the affirmative ;
the royal mandate having been sent for, a chief soon afterwards
appeared, bearing this important* document, which he presented
in a crouching posture to the Atweynwoon, who proceeded
carefully to open its various covers. A small red velvet bag,
bound with tape, and sealed with the royal signet, enclosed a
cylindrical case, made of ivory, in which was a small bag of gold
cloth. When this was opened, a second of the same costly
material, wrapped with cotton, appeared, and in this was the

Online LibraryCharles Rathbone LowThe life and correspondence of Field Marshall Sir George Pollock ...(constable of the Tower) → online text (page 14 of 40)